HARRISBURG -- A judge threw out subpoenas issued to 15 Pennsylvania journalists who were summoned to testify at a hearing on whether a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate alleged violations of grand jury secrecy.
Dauphin County Judge Todd Hoover on Thursday quashed the subpoenas that lawyers for casino owner Louis DeNaples had issued to reporters for The Associated Press and five other news organizations.
Hoover is examining allegations by DeNaples' lawyers of leaks in the investigation that led to perjury charges against DeNaples in January.
The reporters' lawyers asked Hoover to quash the subpoenas, which were issued last month and sought the reporters' testimony and documents related to the probe, such as notes, calendars, e-mail messages and telephone records.
The lawyers argued that Pennsylvania's Shield Law protects journalists from being forced to reveal the identities of confidential sources in legal proceedings.
"We're pleased that the court has determined that there was no need to seek the reporters' testimony in this matter," Gayle Sproul, a lawyer for The AP and The Morning Call of Allentown, said in a statement.
Ted Chylack, a member of DeNaples' legal team, said he had not seen Hoover's order and declined comment Thursday.
DeNaples' attorneys have argued that news stories about the grand jury investigation circulated for months while the secret panel was meeting.
Grand jury proceedings are secret and state law bars prosecutors, court officials or jurors from discussing a grand jury investigation. Witnesses, however, are not barred from discussing their testimony outside the courtroom.
The state Supreme Court ordered Hoover to hold a hearing to determine whether a special prosecutor should be appointed.
On June 26, Hoover quashed parts of the subpoenas concerning the documents that the journalists were directed to provide, but did not immediately address portions seeking their testimony.
Hoover called Roxbury News operator James Roxbury to testify earlier this month at the closed hearing. Roxbury's lawyer has said his client cooperated without compromising his rights under either the Constitution or the Shield Law.
DeNaples, owner of the Mount Airy Resort Casino in the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania, faces four perjury counts. He is accused of lying to investigators for the state Gaming Control Board about his relationships with four men to win a $50 million slot-machine gambling license. Two are reputed mobsters and the other two were at the center of a political corruption scandal in Philadelphia.
DeNaples has been suspended from exercising any control over the casino pending the outcome of the criminal case. The $412 million casino, which opened last fall, is being run by a state-appointed trustee.
One of DeNaples' longtime friends, the Rev. Joseph F. Sica, also faces a perjury charge for allegedly lying in his grand jury testimony about his relationship with a mobster.